Blackstar album coverWritten by: David Bowie
Recorded: 6 February, 27 April 2015
Producers: David Bowie, Tony Visconti

Released: 8 January 2016

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David Bowie: vocals
Donny McCaslin: tenor saxophone
Ben Monder: guitar
Tim Lefebvre: bass guitar
Jason Lindner: piano, Wurlitzer, Prophet ’08, Prophet 12, Mopho X4
Mark Guiliana: drums

‘Dollar Days’ was the only Blackstar song not to have been demoed before the recording sessions by David Bowie.

It’s the lush track on the album. It has strings and gorgeous backing vocals. It’s beautiful.
Tony Visconti
Rolling Stone, 23 November 2015

‘Dollar Days’ begins with melancholy introspection, with Bowie proclaiming “I’ve got no enemies”, before wistfully recalling “the English evergreens I’m running to”.

The song is a farewell of sorts, with the repeated lines “Don’t believe for just one second/I’m forgetting you/I’m trying to/I’m dying too”. The latter line is seemingly intended to have the double meaning “I’m dying too”.

Actually, all of ‘Dollar Days’ blows my mind. You can really feel him in those songs.
Tim Lefebvre, 20 January 2016

There is also a barely suppressed anger at its heart. “We bitches tear our magazines/Those oligarchs with foaming mouths phone/Now and then,” Bowie sings.

Elsewhere, he throws in lines redolent of the urban dystopia of Diamond Dogs: “Dollar days, survival sex/Honour stretching tails to necks/I’m falling down.”

In the studio

‘Dollar Days’ was recorded during the second set of Blackstar sessions. The backing track was recorded on 6 February 2015 at the Magic Shop studio.

A lot of the stuff was pretty meticulously demoed out, so there wasn’t a whole lot of room for improvising. And if we did take liberties, it was much more song-oriented. Like ‘Dollar Days’, for instance, was not demoed out. He taught us that right in the studio. So we had to put on our pop hats and try to figure out that song. To me, it’s pretty stunning how it came out, on all parts.
Tim Lefebvre, 20 January 2016

The song was completed quickly under a working title. Indeed, in the period between the completion of recording and the album’s release, keyboard player Jason Lindner was unable to recall it.

It wasn’t called that then, and I don’t remember. It wasn’t on the demos, so I can’t even recall in my head what song that is. I remember a couple of songs he played us on the guitar. I think he said he wrote them this morning and we made something out of them.
Jason Lindner
Rolling Stone, 4 December 2015

David Bowie’s vocals were recorded during an overdub session at Human Studios on 27 April 2015.

Donny McCaslin’s two tenor saxophone solos are among his most beautiful and expressive moments on the album.

One day, David just picked up a guitar. He had this little idea, and we just learned it right there in the studio. I didn’t even remember it until months later when someone told me it was on the album.
Donny McCaslin
Rolling Stone, 23 November 2015

The song also ends with an electric guitar solo by Ben Monder, evocative of some of Mick Ronson’s lead guitar work with the Spiders From Mars.

I recall Tony had a suggestion for a vague line going through that part of the tune, but he didn’t have specific notes. He sort of had a contour of the line in mind and I came up with the notes. It was mapped out pretty well by the time we tracked it.
Ben Monder
Premier Guitar, 15 January 2016

LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy, who played percussion on ‘Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime)’ and ‘Girl Loves Me’, was present in the studio when the ‘Dollar Days’ backing track was recorded, and suggested a drum pattern during the verses.

This is the one song on the record that didn’t have a demo. David taught it to us in the studio, playing it on guitar and singing. We played it down a few times and got the take. James Murphy [of LCD Soundsystem] was in the studio while we were recording this song, and he really helped me craft the tom groove that appears in the verses. He’s a great drummer himself.
Mark Guiliana
Modern Drummer, February 2016
Previous song: ‘Girl Loves Me’
Next song: ‘I Can’t Give Everything Away’
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